Workers started the process of moving the Confederate monument on Broad Street downtown Monday night.
Several small groups of bystanders looked on, taking video and photos, as a crew disassembled the stone obelisk memorializing Confederate soldiers from Athens who died in the Civil War.
The work is expected to take several nights, and that portion of Broad Street will be closed from 9 p.m.–6 a.m. until it’s finished. College Square is also closed because it’s serving as a staging area for equipment.
The Athens-Clarke County Commission voted in June to move the monument to a location off Timothy Road near the Loop, close to where a Civil War skirmish at Barber Creek took place. It will be placed in storage temporarily until the new site is prepared.
A state law prohibits moving Confederate monuments, but provides exceptions if the monument impedes transportation or is endangered in its current location. ACC officials have said the monument impedes the sight lines of drivers and pedestrians. It’s also become the focal point of Black Lives Matter protests in recent months and has been spray-painted with graffiti on at least one occasion. In other cities, protesters have taken it upon themselves to tear down similar monuments.
The Ladies Memorial Association, led by Laura Rutherford, who came from a prominent segregationist family, erected the monument in 1872. It was originally located at the intersection of College Avenue and Washington Street, and was moved to Broad Street in 1912.
Once the monument is moved, ACC will widen the crosswalk between College Square and the Arch by five feet to accommodate the crowds of pedestrians who walk between downtown and campus each day when UGA is in session. The project also includes a rainbow crosswalk across College Avenue to acknowledge the LGBTQ community.
In addition, College Square will be closed to vehicular traffic for six months starting this fall to create an outdoor seating area for nearby restaurants. (Dining outdoors rather than indoors greatly decreases the risk of coronavirus exposure.) If successful, the closure could be made permanent at the end of the pilot project.
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